4.07.2009

Weapons of Mass Distraction

This morning, as I was fruitlessly trying to avoid waking up to the sound of NPR at 5:50 am, I began to eavesdrop on what the hosts were saying...Lockheed Martin and the DoD are trying to get F-35s out while the F-22s are now, oficially, a dying breed.

From the $200 USD Pentagon toilet seat run of comedy came this eloquent quote: "The biggest problem will be that they'll wind up costing a lot more because they are going to find problems when they test them," says the GAO's Director of Acquisition Mike Sullivan. Oy vey says me.

This reminded me of a meeting I attended about two years ago in Dallas Ft Worth where my company was approaching Lockheed Martin with a training and education program. There was awe in the voice of our Lockheed contact, as he regaled us with the long-running story of the F-35 production process. He peppered his conversation (or rather monologue) freely with acronyms not only from the DoD, but also from Lockheed itself. This is worse than having to know the secret handshake to get into a speakeasy. But I was already desensitized through working with RAND Corporation--anyone who's even remotely involved with the DoD is bound to deluge listeners or readers with an unending barrage of complex and multi-defined acronyms.

So back to my NPR experience this morning...why are we talking about multimillion dollar fighter jets in this economy? It's, of course, lots more complicated than just that. He who has the biggest, shiniest air machine wins the size battle vs. the nuclear emerging powers (WTF), at least until the next biggest and greatest toy appears in your line of sight from around the corner. Here's more from NPR's story: In the midst of a nasty recession and a huge deficit, is this a good idea? Owen Cote, director of the MIT Securities Studies Program, says yes. "Basically, money solves all problems," Cote says. "They're telling the GAO thanks for your advice; we're going to accelerate the program because we've canceled F-22 and we want to get to this generation fighter as quickly as possible."

And then...the coupe de grace: A plane for a new age of the American battlefield. Now for the hard part: Out of the nearly 2,500 planes planned to be operational by 2015, only two have been completed.

If this isn't one of those palm face situations, I don't know what is.